Brittney Griner came out early in high school, but while being recruited, was concerned that her sexuality would be an issue at Baylor, a Baptist school. "Big Girl, I don't care what you are," Griner said her future coach Kim Mulkey told her. "You can be black, white, blue, purple, whatever. As long as you come here and do what you need to do and hoop, I don't care." Griner says it didn't quite end up that way.
Griner, about to start her second season with the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury, has a book out, and the most eye-opening parts are the criticisms of her Baylor experience and her relationship with Mulkey, both focusing on what Griner perceived as pressure to keep her sexuality under wraps.
"I would love to be an ambassador for Baylor, to show my school pride, but it's hard to do that. I've spent too much of my life being made to feel like there's something wrong with me. And no matter how much support I felt as a basketball player at Baylor, it still doesn't erase all the pain I felt there."
Her sophomore year, Griner writes, somebody saw her and her girlfriend out to dinner on Valentines' Day and told Mulkey. Griner says Mulkey then told her she needed to be more careful about who she was seen with, and urged her to keep her relationships private, and to scrub her Twitter feed of any photos with her and significant others.
Griner says this would prove a source of tension over her final two years at Baylor, with Mulkey telling her it was not her personal belief, but that she was merely toeing the company line. Griner says that by the end of her tenure, she no longer believed that to be true, and that Mulkey did not fully accept her.
There still appears to be a rift between Griner and Mulkey. As Griner told SI.com earlier this month,
"I hope we have a good relationship. I think we can kind of get back to where we were when I was in college. It will take a little time, but I definitely miss her."
If Griner feels like Mulkey gave her the bait-and-switch, Baylor makes no secret of its stance as a religiously affiliated school, with the accompanying policies. A "statement on human sexuality" on its website notes that "Christian churches across the ages and around the world have affirmed purity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman as the biblical norm."
On the whole, Griner's criticisms are more than tempered by praise for Mulkey and the program, and she writes that given all she knows, if she had to do it all again she'd still choose to go to Baylor. She just wants to point out the hypocrisy:
"I feel like the people who run the school want it both ways: they want to keep the policy, so they can keep selling themselves as a Christian university, but they are more than happy to benefit from the success of their gay athletes. That is, as long as those gay athletes don't talk about being gay."
Brittney Griner: independent at last [Houston Chronicle]